ORLANDO, FLA. — If you try to pinpoint the moment when Game 4 started to turn against the Orlando Magic, look at what occurred at just under the 10-minute mark of the third quarter. The Magic led the Lakers by 12 points, and Dwight Howard had the ball at the left side of the free-throw circle.
With Lakers center Andrew Bynum several feet away from him, Howard attempted a pass to his right, where Hedo Turkoglu was guarded by Trevor Ariza. But Ariza knocked the pass away, gained control of the ball and converted a fastbreak dunk.
The sequence started a 16-3 Lakers run, but it also was emblematic of a larger problem for Orlando. Howard's errant pass was one of 19 Magic turnovers that led to 16 Lakers points. Taking better care of the ball will be a key point of emphasis for the Magic in Game 5 tonight.
"If we keep throwing the ball right to them, turning the ball over, then they're getting easy baskets," said Orlando forward Rashard Lewis, who had three turnovers of his own Thursday. "It's hard to win a ballgame when you're handing them the ball and they're getting layups at the other end of the court." Orlando has committed 60 turnovers in the Finals, and those miscues have resulted in 71 points for the Lakers. The Lakers, on the other hand, have made 42 turnovers, which have led to 45 Magic points.
The Magic had averaged 12.8 turnovers a game during the first three rounds of the playoffs, and is averaging 15.0 in the Finals.
It would be tempting to blame the Magic's problems on its unsettled point-guard situation, but Rafer Alston and Jameer Nelson had only one turnover apiece in Game 4.
Instead, there's plenty of blame to go around. Of the 10 players Orlando used on Thursday, only J.J. Redick didn't turn over the ball.
"We know what we did wrong," Nelson said. "We turned the ball over. I think one thing we have to do is value the basketball. This is a crucial point of our season, and the more shots we get, the better." Howard leads the team in turnovers during the Finals (17) and had a team-high seven turnovers in Game 4. The Lakers are placing added emphasis on stripping the ball from him when he receives the ball near the basket.
"When he gets the ball in the paint, he's not really looking to pass," Bynum said. "So, we know that if we double him while he's inside the paint, he's not going to kick it out for three-pointers and stuff. It's enabling us to be very effective." Howard knows he has to be more efficient when he gets the ball.
"I think the biggest thing is trying not to get as many three-second [violations and] offensive fouls," Howard said. "But they've been doing a pretty good job doubling me. [I've] just got to trust my teammates a little bit more. As soon as I get it, read the defense and make the right play."
Keeping it light
One of the ways the Magic players kept their minds off their Game 4 misfortunes was to get far away from basketball after their team meeting Friday.
Alston spent the rest of the day with his nephew, playing NBA video games.
"The funny thing is he keeps beating me," Alston said of their matchups. "And the bad thing is he beats me, [playing as] me, doing things I can't do on the court. I can't hit a pull-up three on the break, so I don't know why they have me doing it on the games."
Across the way Mickael Pietrus began his media sessions with a "Borat" impression, saying, "It's very nice to see you. Very nice."
Pietrus explained that he was inspired after watching "Borat" on Friday night.
"Why 'Borat'? Because I think life is good and no matter what, no matter the situation you're in, you have to get a smile on your face," he said.
Speak no evil
Pietrus still doesn't think his flagrant foul in the closing seconds of Game 4 was a big deal, but Pau Gasol had a different view after being hit.
The two have not spoken since they had to be separated by officials and teammates after the play. NBA officials reviewed the hit and decided Pietrus would not be suspended for Game 5.
"I think I was going for the ball. I don't think I was trying to make a dirty play," Pietrus said. "I'm smart enough with three seconds to go and they're up 10 [actually, five], why am I going to get a hard foul. No, I was trying to make sure he was going to the free-throw line."
Pietrus said it wasn't even the hardest foul he has seen during the playoffs.
"I think from what I did, it was a little caress," he said.
Gasol doesn't agree.
"The intention of the foul was definitely hurtful," he said. " . . . There was no way that was necessary to do at that point, but just because I was able to take the hit and hold on to the rim, then it's not punished. If I would have missed the rim, I would have fell on my back and broke my head, then it would have been punished? It just doesn't, doesn't make a lot of sense."
Kyle Hightower, Iliana Limon contributed to this report.